How one student’s pandemic listening kickstarted a Taylor Swift fan club

Founder Cristina Liao shares how she became a Swift fan and her club’s first year

A group of people sitting around a table listening to Taylor Swift.
Liao and her club pictured at their spring end of the semester study session. PHOTO: Cristina Liao / SFU Swifties

By: Isabella Urbani, Staff Writer

The early months of the pandemic encouraged people to pick up a new hobby or resume previous passions while home-bound. For Cristina Liao, founder of SFU’s Taylor Swift fan club, SFU Swifties, the pandemic brought her from an occasional Taylor Swift listener to a superfan. 

“When I was younger, I didn’t know what albums were, so I only listened to singles,” revealed Liao about her journey to becoming a fan. Her first introduction to Swift was the singer’s 2014 Grammy Award winning studio album 1989. From that album, Liao “obsessively” listened to “Blank Space” and “Out Of The Woods,” alongside some other Swift singles including “Safe and Sound” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.”

Although she was initially introduced to Swift during the singer’s peak pop era, Liao’s favourite style of Swift’s is folk. She enjoys her recent albums Folklore and evermore, and even cited Folklore as the album that made her a “hardcore” fan. 

By the end of her high school senior year, Liao had become a full-fledged fan, and the idea of starting up a fan club the following year in university came to mind. She finally took the plunge after her idea was well-received by the SFU Undergrads Facebook group. 

“A hundred people or so liked the post so I was like ‘Why not do it?’” said Liao. 

As the founder, Liao is responsible for handling club funding, room bookings, and coordinating events alongside her executive team of three other members. Liao recruited one of her friends as the first executive member to get the club its seal of approval. From there, Liao brought on an events coordinator to help smooth out event details and activities, and a communications manager to oversee the club’s social media. 

As for the club’s membership, anyone is welcome to join. The club can be found on the Simon Fraser Student Society’s portal. “It’s just a bunch of friends hanging out and talking about Taylor,” said Liao. “It’s a kind community of Taylor Swift fans, and stereotypically, Taylor Swift fans can be kind of [passionate].” 

When it comes to meetings, SFU Swifties are mainly “discussion-based.” All members interact through a group Discord page whenever they like to discuss anything from Taylor Swift to movies. During the spring semester, the club hosted its first in-person gathering with an end of semester study session which included a Taylor Swift listening party.

Liao and her team had their most recent gathering, a Taylor Swift trivia pizza party, last week in the Student Union Building

“The event went great! We did trivia and handed out some prizes, then listened to some music,” said Liao about the success of the recent event. It was such a hit, Liao hopes to organize more trivia events in the future and one more general event before the fall semester. Right now, her main attention is focused on making discussions in the club’s Discord chat more regular. In regards to future events, the club has not yet announced COVID-19 policies. 

Approaching the end of the club’s first year, Liao is very appreciative for the skills and people the club has introduced to her. “I really enjoy meeting and talking to my members,” she explained.

From her early country days to her recent folk adventures, Liao enjoys all of Swift’s albums. “I feel like she can pull off any genre if she tries hard enough,” she said. Her love has only continued to grow with Swift’s latest album Red (Taylor’s Version), a re-recording of the star’s 2012 Red album. 

“I love the re-recordings. They make me appreciate her all that much more. For a while, when it first came out, it was all I listened to.” Liao added, “It shows her growth as a singer.” 

Aside from her music, Liao is also inspired by the way Swift carries herself, from her ambition to her songwriting. “She is one of the pop pioneers currently in the music industry, and [one] of the most prolific artists to come out of the 2010s,” said Liao. 

Swift was the youngest person to ever receive the Album of the Year award at the Grammy’s and was named the Youngest Country Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association back in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Since then, she has continued to stake a claim in the music industry by becoming the most awarded American Music Awards winner and most representative artist of Gen Z and Millennials back in 2019. 

Nearly 16 years after the release of her debut album, Liao said Swift has influenced recent up-and-coming artists, including Conan Gray, Olivia Rodrigo, Gracie Abrams, and Maisie Peters. So how does Liao enjoy these prodigies? 

“I enjoyed [Olivia Rodrigo’s] debut album. I even played it for my dad,” said Liao

At the end of the day, Liao may be a superfan, but her enjoyment starts and stops with Swift’s music. “I don’t particularly care about the personal life of the artists that I listen to, I appreciate their art,” said Liao. “As long as she keeps making good [music], I’ll listen to it.” 

You can find more about SFU Swifties, their Discord, and their events through their Instagram @sfuswifties.